Will the asteroid 2018 LF16 slam into Earth in 2023?

We came across the following post on reddit:

Referencing the website Beauty of Planet Earth, the post suggests that a 700-foot (213m) -long asteroid named 2018 LF16 was assessed by NASA to be at risk of colliding with Earth on 62 separate occasions over the next 100 years.

The site claims that the first such encounter would be on 8 August, 2023, and references the British newspaper the Express for its claims.

A Shot in the Dark

We investigated this claim by first examining the Express article. We found that the article was written in November 2018, shortly after the asteroid was discovered.

The Express did raise alarm at the possibility of 2018 LF16 colliding with Earth as it was believed the impact could release energy equivalent to more than 11 times the largest bomb ever detonated by mankind.

Approximation of 2018 LF16’s size with reference to New York City: spacereference.org

Nevertheless, the Express notes that at the time, it was calculated that there was only a one in 370 million risk of 2018 LF16 impacting Earth in August 2023, and a one in 30 million risk of the asteroid impacting Earth at any time this century.

The Express also notes that NASA has a system called ‘Sentry’ that monitors objects that could potentially collide with Earth, and carries a quote from the space agency informing that asteroid threats could be removed from the list if they were eventually determined not to be a threat.

A Long Way from the Truth

Looking up NASA’s Sentry catalogue, we found that 2018 LF16 had been removed from the list in July 2021.

As the site notes, scientists are able to rule out potential impacts as with a larger number of observations, the trajectory of an objects in space can be more accurately determined. This would have been the case with 2018 LF16.

With the latest observations of 2018 LF16, it has been determined that the asteroid never crosses Earth’s orbit and would never come close to Earth’s orbit. At its closest, it would still lie about 0.61 astronomical units (91 million km) from Earth. One astronomical unit is approximately equivalent to the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

As such, the claim that 2018 LF16 may slam into Earth in 2023 is outdated and false.

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